True Life: I’m an Architecture Student
February 7, 2012
Yesterday, Salon spoke directly to and about the insular world of architects with an article gravely entitled “The architecture meltdown.” While a tear may have been shed for Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano and other starchitects who complain about a lack of jobs and industry-wide depression after the economy took a tumble, author Scott Timberg turned most of his attention to the 99% of the architecture world, students who come out of architecture school $50,000 in debt and face a 13.9% unemployment rate, and well-educated, talented young architects who so easily resign to years of barely paid internships, submissively accepting what Timberg described as a “wait-your-turn-hierarchy” and a “culture of sacrifice.”
Well, it seems that more and more people are awakening to the grim reality of a profession once considered the apotheosis of “bourgeois bohemianism.” In December, Sarah Hirschman divulged on popular media’s falsely propagated image of ‘the architect,’ starting her rant with “Around the third day of architecture school, you realize things are not quite what you expected.” Spotted this morning on The Varsity, the University of Toronto’s student newspaper, was an article succinctly called “Architecture school confidential” and described as “a heartbreaking tale of sleepless nights, severed fingers, and a shitload of hard work.” More after the jump.
No one said any form of grad school was going to be easy, but The Varsity’s collection of typical architecture school horror stories seem almost like confessions on MTV’s True Life. Intimate stories of impossible demands, sleeping in the studio for days in a row (if sleeping at all), having to break into dorm rooms to work, fractured social lives, and to top it all off, X-ACTO knife incidents and hospital visits, were shared in snippets with black and white photographs of workspaces depicted like battlefields.
These stories are a dime a dozen, and those who live through them typically recount these years in a humorous light, as if they were a painful rite of passage. But why should architecture school devote so much of its time culling the herd, turning people away from the profession by portraying one’s education as something that needs to be ‘survived?’ Is positive reinforcement detrimental to an architect’s ability to see clearly, to serve society with its patent integration of aesthetics and pragmatism? It seems that an industry so ravenous for innovation and so concerned with solving the world’s problems has yet to turn in and look at its own.